The platinum-coated Cowboy returns to the kind of songs that made him a household...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
What a confusing thing it is to be a Garth Brooks fan these days. Having sold 100 million albums (that's a lot of rhinestones), the man obviously had a serious identity crisis. Trying out for a baseball team, preparing himself for a film role in the ill-fated The Lamb by actually trying to turn himself into the lead character, Chris Gaines (releasing a fictional greatest hits under the pseudonym) and then hinting that his next album would be his last. Now it seems that he may have been bluffing, or at least attempting to balance his turbulent private life with his career. Certainly The Scarecrow displays no sign of the man - who single-handedly made the concept of a multi-platinum country artist a reality - saying farewell.
With its customary mix of power ballads ("Thicker Than Blood"), Merle Haggard influenced honk tonkin' ("Big Money" and the song featured at this year's CMA awards, the George Jones duet "Beer Run") and pop crossovers (Wrapped Up In You"), this album is bound to bring back at least part of the audience who were too confused to buy The Magic Of Christmas. He even finds time to include a vogueish bluegrass version of America's "Don't Cross The River". At the start of the year Brooks had hinted that this would be a fairly dark record, but it seems his mood has lifted - he recently said that: "Somewhere in the spring it popped open. It was happy". In providing us with a set of songs this uplifting and unsurprising he has done exactly what his public demands of him. This is after all what he does best. It would also be a crying shame if his career confusion led to him retiring from live work as plenty of the songs here would really suit his barnstorming live act, particularly his duet with Trisha Yearwood - "Squeeze Me In".
So, is everything alright with Mr Brooks now? His mother's death (which inspired " When You Come Back To Me") and the responsibility of fatherhood reportedly weigh heavy on him, and it is these issues which may make it a long wait for those wanting to see the legend in concert again. Yet, with its cover photographs reinforcing the notion of Garth as a born-again cowpoke, it would seem that business is slowly returning to normal. This is one Scarecrow with more than his fair share of brains.